MADRID: Six directors of Barcelona have quit in the escalating civil war at the Spanish champions, attacking the club’s handling of a social media scandal and querying the board’s confused reaction to coronavirus pandemic.
Two of the club’s four vice presidents, Emili Rousaud and Enrique Tombas, were among those to announce their resignation in a letter to fans published in Spanish media on Friday. Subsequenytly hey were joined by directors Silvio Elias, Josep Pont, Jordi Calsamiglia and Maria Texidor.
All six asked president Josep Maria Bartomeu to call presidential elections and voiced “displeasure” over the club’s hiring of a third party, I3 Ventures, earlier this year to monitor social media coverage of Barca.
Their letter of resignation said: “We have arrived at this point because we cannot reverse the way the club is managed in the face of important challenges in the future, especially in the post-pandemic era.”
Bartomeu has denied accusations the company created social media accounts to smear future presidential candidates, and former and current players, but he anyway rescinded the club’s contract with the firm. I3 also denied any wrongdoing.
In a statement, Barca said the resignations were the consequence of a board reshuffle led by Bartomeu.
It added: “This restucturing is designed so the board can see through the final spell of its mandate with maximum strength, so it can implement necessary measures to prepare the club for the future and overcome the consequences of the health crisis.”
The club denied an accusation by one of the departing directors that I3, which Bartomeu had said received 1 million euros ($1.1 million), was overpaid.
Barca’s annual revenues last year were 841 million euros ($914 million), according to Deloitte. They have won eight of the last 11 La Liga titles and led the standings when soccer in Spain was indefinitely postponed last month.
Spain has suffered one of the worst outbreaks of the COVID-19 disease in the world, with 15,238 deaths and more than 150,000 cases.
Barcelona players, including all-time top scorer Messi, have taken an additional pay cut to guarantee non-playing staff will receive full salaries.
Last month, Messi took issue with what he perceived as pressure from board members to accept the club’s imposed pay cut.
He said: “It does not cease to surprise us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under the magnifying glass and tried to add pressure to do something that we always knew we would do.”
Bartomeu has been Barca’s president since 2014 but is unable to stand again as he has served two terms. An election must be held by the summer of 2021.